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Ba'athist loyalist vows aid to militants

Makes demands, claims in Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria -- A man claiming to be the top spokesman for Iraq's former ruling party said the group will not stop aiding the insurgency or engage in national reconciliation efforts unless the US-backed government in Baghdad accepts conditions that would lead to its end.

Among the demands are the complete withdrawal of American troops, the abolition of laws enacted since the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime, and trials of all Iraqis who cooperated with the United States and the US-supported administration.

Neither the United States nor Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim-led government has shown any willingness to make such broad concessions to the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgents. President Bush has said he will keep US troops in Iraq until the Baghdad government can keep the peace.

But the comments in the interview late last week illustrate the thinking of some Sunni Arab hard-liners. The meeting took place after repeated efforts by the Associated Press to make contact in Syria with Hussein's Ba'ath party loyalists and other supporters of the insurgency in Iraq.

The man, who appeared in person at the interview, gave himself the nom de guerre Abu Mohammed but has been identified as Khudair al-Murshidi, a former head of the Iraqi Doctors Syndicate under Hussein. He refused to give his real name or be photographed, although he -- like many others associated with Hussein's regime -- appeared to be moving freely around Damascus.

Mohammed said he was the official spokesman for the Iraqi Regional Command of the Ba'ath.

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